Overcrowding marks Pampanga ‘market schedule’ rule

Jun A. Malig
Overcrowding marks Pampanga ‘market schedule’ rule
Crowds form during the window hours to buy their necessities

PAMPANGA, Philippines – The 14-hour, per week window period imposed by the provincial government here resulted in the complete disregard of the physical distancing protocol encouraged in the ongoing Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine.


The Pampanga provincial government imposed on March 25 that all cities and municipalities give residents a limited time to go out and buy food, and their other needs as part of the lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.  

The result of the directive was overcrowding in public markets, groceries and drug stores.

Residents of the 505 villages in the province were given an average of 7 hours (usually 5 am – 12 noon) in two days a week to go out of their houses, bring their respective home quarantine passes, and buy their needs.

At the Mabalacat City Public Market on Saturday, March 28, the large number of people trying to buy food resulted to long queues and disregard for physical distancing.

Reacting to the post of Mabalacat City News, the official information Facebook page of the city government, netizens blasted the lack of discipline among some market-goers.

Walang social distancing. 2 hours akong nakapila, 1 meter ang distance ko sa harap pero yung sa likod walang mga pake. Quarantine pass para social distancing pero hindi natutupad. Mga enforcer hindi nila sinisita kahit siksikan sa pila,” one Facebook user commented.

(There was no social distancing. I was in line for 2 hours, my distance from the person in front of me was 1 meter but the persons behind me didn’t care. There were [home] quarantine passes for social distancing but it was not being followed. Enforcers did not accost the people although they were too close to one another.)

Parang hindi nakarating dito yung memo ng social distancing. Ang nangyari ata e pinapila lang ang mga tao at nilimit ang pag-pasok sa palengke,” another commenter said.

(It seems the memo on social distancing did not arrive here. What seemed to happen was the people were made to queue while limiting the number of those entering the market.)

Several other Facebook users made the same observation on the breach of physical or social distancing protocol.

Late afternoon on Saturday, Mabalacat City Mayor Crisostomo Garbo announced on the Mabalacat City News Facebook page that the 7-hour per day window time will be extended to 12 hours. He did this after observing that the 5 a.m. to 12 noon market hours were too short and caused crowding in markets, grocery stores, pharmacies and other establishments.

But Garbo still maintained the only 2-day per week market schedules of residents of every barangay in the city. 

The Philippine Star quoted on Saturday Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing as saying that the agency disapproves the market curfew hours of as little as 4 hours per day being imposed by some local government units “as this will lead to residents crowding establishments.”

The report also quoted Densing as saying that quarantine passes and masks should not be required at any market or grocery establishments, as all Filipinos have the right to freely buy their supplies, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

Some residents in Mabalacat City criticized the provincial and city officials for limiting and fixing the days and time to buy basic necessities.

Hindi yata masyadong nag-iisip ang mga local officials natin. Masyado yata silang nakikinig sa advice ng mga military at pulis kaya hindi na nila nare-realize kung makakabuti o makakasama sa mamamayan ang mga impositions nila,” one resident said.

(Maybe our local officials do not think much. Maybe they listen too much on the advice of military and police that they fail to realize if their impositions would be beneficial or detrimental to the citizens.)

Another resident said the 2-day per week market time was unfair to residents who do not own refrigerators to store meat, fish and other perishable goods.

Isipin mo. Tuwing Martes at Biyernes ka lang puwedeng lumabas at bumili ng karne, isda at gulay. Sa barangay namin mas maraming kabahayan ang walang ref kaysa meron. Paano sila bibili ng pagkain na good for 3 or 4 days kung wala silang paglalagyan,” the resident said.

(Think about it. You are allowed to go out and buy meat, fish and vegetables only every Tuesday and Friday. In our village most households do not have refrigerators. How can they buy food that is good for 3 to 4 days if they do not have something to store it?)

On March 27, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año, told CNN Philippines that people should not be given window hours to go out to buy food and other supplies.

“I’m advising all the LGUs to lift the window hours for marketing or buying because kapag naglagay ka ng window hours, kinukumpol-kumpol mo lang iyong mga tao lalo, (window hours make the people overcrowd when buying),” he said. – Rappler.com 

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